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“How was it?!” asks the zillionth person within the past month. I have just come back from a four-month stint in another country, I’m three sizes smaller than when I left, and my mind and soul are wrecked. How was your semester?
People mean well (at least most of them, anyway) when asking you questions. They want to know you more, they want to hear your story, and they want to be a part of your life.
The problem is: when the questions have complicated, dark answers, how are you supposed to respond?
All my loved ones wanted was to hear first-hand of all my amazing new experiences. Too bad my newest experience was my scary-good willpower with avoiding food.
When I was in recovery, I dealt with an overwhelming surge of questions–not just from others, but also from myself. How did this happen? How do I get out of it? What is wrong with me? What is going to happen? Not only was I struggling just to function through my day, I also kept receiving the questions and felt the additional challenge of figuring out how to answer them.
Here are some lessons I learned in the art of navigating discourse while I was in recovery:
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1. Make some plans before entering the arena.
If you know you are about to enter the colosseum of inquiries (a family reunion, office party, friend’s bridal shower, etc.), go ahead and decide on a couple of things.
First, how honest do you want to be?
Lying is not my strong suit (curse you, too-readable face!) so I decided to take a more honest route, but kept it simple, à la “my trip was the best and hardest thing I have ever done” and left it at that.
I had decided for myself telling everyone it was the best time of my life felt like an icky lie, but that is me. You might feel totally comfortable guarding the truth against everyone, save a few. The choice is yours, but you should make it beforehand.
Second, cook up a few ready-made responses.
Having a few responses ready you feel comfortable with will help you feel less overwhelmed by the weight of the questions you might get, especially with the larger, more general questions like the dreaded “how are you?”
Lastly, head into conversations with an awareness of reciprocity.
With any question you ask, it is common courtesy to be able to answer for yourself as well. Therefore, be mindful of where the conversation is going, and do not ask about something more personal if you are not ready to dish it out on your end.
2. Protect yourself.
This is very important: you do not have to answer any questions you are not ready to answer. Unless there is a legitimate concern for your safety, please allow yourself space and the choice to not put yourself in a place of vulnerability if you are not there yet.
Pouring your heart out for every person is exhausting and an overload to your emotional switchboard. It is perfectly healthy to spend some time in hermit mode if it is productive and healing for your heart, mind, and body. When you are strong and have decided to answer questions honestly, make sure the questioner is someone you can trust your heart with, and who will be an asset in your corner in recovery.
3. Be kind to yourself in the midst of your own questions.
In my own journey, my hardest challenge by far was to quiet my own internal loop of questions. Some questions fired rapidly, one after another, some were quiet and lethal, but all of them had immediate emotional responses erupting in me–fear, guilt, anxiety, and sadness.
It was all of the emotions tied to the questions that had me running. I began to feel better once I allowed myself to accept having these questions. Once I accepted my own uncertainty, without putting any judgment on myself, I could begin to put some pieces back together and understand why the emotions were connected. I had to sit in the uncertainty and be okay with sitting there for a while. I had to show myself grace and coach myself through, telling myself this period won’t last forever.
Recovery can only truly begin when we kindly accept where we are.
Answers can only come if we allow the question to be asked in a safe place.
Fielding questions can be brutal, but the questions themselves come from a place of good, either from a well-meaning friend or from an internal desire to understand and make sense of our lives. The answers (or lack thereof) will get easier with time and grace–they are worth our efforts of thoughtfulness and seeking.
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The opinions and information shared in this article may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process.